70 years ago August 15 marks the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II. The formal surrender ceremony was held in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. President Truman declared that day to be V-J Day.
Germany had already surrendered on 7 May 1945. President Harry Truman felt the atomic bomb was the answer to Japan’s refusal to surrender. Mr. Truman understood the powerful rain of ruin that was contained in the bomb and at the same time made recommendations that Congress be a forceful influence towards the peace-time potential of atomic energy. On August 6 the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and another on Nagasaki on August 9. On August 14 Japan surrendered and the news of the surrender was announced to the world on August 15.
So how did this effect my family? My mother, Carol Baars, was 15 years old at this time. She had two brothers and a brother-in-law who were serving in WW II. Her brother, Earl (nicknamed “Honey”) had enlisted on 27 March 1942 and served with the First U.S. Infantry Division. The division departed for England on 1 August 1942. On 22 October 1942 they departed for the combat amphibious assault of North Africa. They were in combat from 21 January 1943 to 9 May 1943. In July 1943 his division took part in Operation Husky invading Sicily. When the campaign was over he returned to England in November to prepare for the Normandy invasion. The First Infantry Division along with one regimental combat team from the 29th Infantry Division comprised the first wave of troops that assaulted German Army defenses on Omaha Beach on D-Day. They drove across France in a continuous offensive, reaching the German border in September. At the Battle of the Bulge his division was moved to the Ardennes front. Participating in several battles they pushed through the Harz Mountains into Czechoslovakia when the war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945. He was discharged on 30 September 1945. Growing up I did not know what his service involved but I was blessed to be able to grow up knowing my “Uncle Honey”.
My mom’s other brother, Carl, enlisted in the navy on 20 March 1944 and served as a baker on the USS Bollinger. The Bollinger joined the Pacific Fleet and arrived at Pearl Harbor 19 February 1945. They departed two days later for the invasion of Iwo Jima providing logistic support. He was discharged on 23 November 1945. I have memories and pictures of birthday cakes prepared for me by “Uncle Carl”. Special desserts were treat when I spent a week with Uncle Carl and Aunt Dorothy.
My mom’s sister’s husband, Harold Siebecker, also served during WW II but I have been unable to locate any of his military records. The only record I have is a newspaper article in which his name is listed on the honor roll for service men in Beloit, WI.
At 6:00 p.m. (Central Time) 15 Aug 1945 President Truman announced at a press conference the unconditional surrender of Japan. The announcement was greeted with elation everywhere and Beloit, WI was no exception. What was it like for my mom and all her family to hear this news? The plant workers of the many factories in Beloit laid on the factory whistles all over town and residents added to the pandemonium with their car horns. Everyone headed for downtown and the crowd peaked at 25,000 around 9:00 p.m. Confetti was everywhere. From the air it looked like the downtown was under 2 feet of snow. High School students formed a long snake dance through town, even zigzagging their way through the post office. It’s possible my mom participated in that parade. A drum corps took part in another parade and a platform was erected at Fourth and Grand for musicians. A group of girls celebrating downtown yelled “Hurray! My man will be coming home!”. That was a celebration my mom could join in on because she knew her brothers were coming home! For others it was a sad moment to know their boys wouldn’t be coming home. The War was over.
September 2 Holiday VJ Day / Victory over Japan Day by Holiday Insights. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2015, from http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/September/vjday.htm
AP Was There: 1945, US drops atomic bombs. (2015, August 5). The Monroe Times, p. B4.
(n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Infantry_Division_(United_States)
(n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Bollinger_(APA-234)
60 Years Ago. (2005, Summer/Fall). Confluence, Newsletter of the Beloit Historical Society, vol. 12, pg11.
“U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010.”, database, Ancestry.com (http://Ancestry.com: accessed 12 Aug 2015), entry for Earl A Baars, Enlistment: 27 March 1942, Release: 30 September 1945.
“U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010.”, database, Ancestry.com (http://Ancestry.com: accessed 12 Aug 2015), entry for Carl Baars, Enlistment: 20 March 1944, Release: 23 November 1945.
US Navy, “USS Bollinger during the Battle of Iwo Jima, March 1945,” digital images, Wikipedia.org (http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/03/03234.htm: accessed 11 August 2015).